Baby feeding has an interesting history. There used to be one choice… breastfeeding. Breastfeeding might have been done by the mother or by a wet nurse. But, in the 1800s, people started experimenting with “dry nursing”, or using milk from cows, goats or donkeys. To support this new way to feed infants, bottles were developed during the Industrial Revolution. In 1838, a German scientist compared cow and human milk and was able to show that the carbohydrate and protein concentrations were different —cow’s milk had more protein and less carbohydrates compared to human milk. In 1869, “Leibig’s Soluble Infant Food” became the first commercial baby food sold in the United States.
If you have taken a walk through the baby aisle at the grocery store, lately, you will know that we have come a long way since Leibig’s Soluble Infant Food. With bottles and commercial formula, parents have many, many options.
Don’t get me wrong, I am pro-breastfeeding. Study after study shows us that human breastmilk helps protect babies against infection, SIDS and obesity, just to name a few benefits. I breastfed two of three of my own babies, but used formula after 6 months or so in our second child. So, we have done a little of both breastfeeding and formula feeding for our own little ones.
For most babies, breast is best. But there are sometimes when babies just need to eat. And formula provides a great way for us to get good nutrition into babies.
Formula comes in many different shapes and sizes. There are formulas for spit up, for gas, for sensitive stomachs, for allergies, for preemies and for a host of metabolic problems. There are situations where babies need very specific formulas, such as babies who were born premature. However, for most babies, the best formula is the one that feeds the baby.
Formula feeding can be a lovely, nourishing process. Hold your baby close when formula feeding. Look them in the eye and sing them a song or talk to them as they eat. Burp well. Repeat many times a day (and sometimes night).
Be flexible, be smart and be patient. You can do this.
Katie Jackson, M.D., is a pediatrician with Utica Park Clinic Claremore.